2018 snuck away and suddenly, like clockwork, it was 2019. 2019.
As in WE ARE GETTING MARRIED THIS YEAR.
For so long, namely because we’ve had a long engagement, we’ve been talking about our wedding as this idea and major life event that is happening sometime in the distant future. Yet, as the new year fell upon us, Chelsea and I both had a very real moment of reality: our wedding is happening soon – I mean, now it’s only 6 months away!
Truly, it shouldn’t surprise us. Chelsea and I have been taking time a couple times a month to spend hours planning everything from schedules, hotel blocks, flowers, and guest lists. Yet, as with many things in life, when you find yourself thick in the process, you barely recognize how fast everything is moving.
We have kept approximately sixteen sheets in our Master Excel document to track everything. Several months ago, Chelsea suggested we keep a sheet to track the things that we have accomplished throughout the planning process so that we could feel encouraged in what we have completed. Seeing that list grow has been delightful; to-dos are getting done and we’re getting closer to capturing the vision we have for this day in our lives.
However, even at this juncture, it has been necessary to recognize that planning a wedding is more than a list of things to do. Wedding planning is inherently stressful because getting married is a HUGE deal. Sure, it’s positive stress, but it’s still stress. Not only are we working together to plan this celebration, but we’re also wrestling with what it means for us to be a married couple – particularly when we already live together, are working to combine finances, and very much have a shared life. What, then, does marriage mean for us?
Contemplation of this change is something newer we are bringing to the conversation of wedding planning. What will change after we become legally married? What might stay the same? What expectations are we both carrying into the relationship (unconsciously or otherwise)?
I suppose this is the gift of a long engagement. We’ve had the time to enjoy the newness of our commitment, to hash out important details for our ceremony and reception, and to allow the process to remind us that a very big change is coming. Marriage has been a conduit for us to discuss even larger, looming questions about our future: where we will live, our careers, our dreams, and of course, children.
These conversations are timely as we turn to more intricately plan the ceremony. The ceremony, for us, is the sacred, intimate representation of us joining our lives. We want the format to speak to who we are as a couple and to set the stage for this very serious commitment we are making. We’re planning for instrumental music, meaningful readings, and a space filled with support, love, laughter, and ease. When I envision marrying Chelsea in the Washington Park Garden (one of my absolute favorite spots in Denver) I anticipate how right it will feel, and how beautiful it will be.
These are the joys of wedding planning. To be honest, it can be hard to hold on to these joys when so much of the process requires diligence about money and details. Yet, as we continue to make more decisions and have more clarity on this experience, we find a deep knowing that this will be the next step into the rest of our lives. Our process is reflecting this, too. The choices of our locations, vendors, and logistics show a shift to have the kind of day that we want, not a day that the wedding world and/or society says we should have.
6 months to go – I can hardly believe it.
There is still much to be done, yet, I feel so joyful at all that we have created and all that will come together this August.
A friend asked recently how I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Chelsea.
Reflecting slowly and wanting to give a full, thorough answer, I still found myself rendered speechless. Articulating the ways in which one falls in love or has the necessary intuition to know the person to spend their life with is a lot like putting words to picturesque mountain views, laughing without restraint, or times when pure, untamed joy strikes. It’s nearly impossible.
There are some experiences that transcend words and explanation; they just are.
Chelsea is the woman I choose because of who she is. Chelsea lives life, welcoming all experiences, while opening the hearts of people around her. She laughs fully, explores freely, and loves without reservation. She is intensely intelligent and is uniquely self-aware. Though I have known Chelsea for many years, she is the kind of person that you can learn something new about with each passing day. One of my favorite parts of Chelsea, though, is that she is silly and makes me laugh. She holds space for profoundly important conversations and ridiculously silly moments. The balance between the two is the key to a keenly rich life.
I also knew I wanted to share life with Chelsea because of the kind of woman she encourages me to be: my full, real self. I can be who I am without reservation. In our life together, there’s an ease, a grace that is immensely refreshing. It has been in this ease where we have found a rhythm and the space to let love grow.
I trust her when we drive together at night. She celebrates my dreams. We share duties in the kitchen. We discuss our strengths and weaknesses. She rubs my shoulder when I’ve had a long day. Big or small – there are corners of my life that are now forever different because of her.
For these reasons – and at least a million more – I said “yes” when Chelsea asked if I would marry her.
Certainly, “double engagement” was always a part of our plan. Our initial discussions of engagement in the summer of 2017 included the core agreement that we both wanted the opportunity to ask each other in marriage (and say “yes” too). Plans came to life. I asked her to be my wife just days before our 1st year anniversary. And, as snow turned to Spring, I wondered if Chelsea would be asking the same question soon.
Turns out, she was voraciously planning. Thick in preparations for the end of my first school term and working full-time, I was not caught off guard by the few signs that the proposal was coming soon. Randomly, I noticed that a particular mid-April weekend was loaded with special occasions: a massage for me, a day at the park, and a romantic dinner for two. Chelsea shared that because she had landed a big design project that she wanted to treat me. Cool, I thought.
I had no idea of what I was getting into.
On the morning of Saturday, April 14th, Chelsea and I slept in as the sun crept into our bedroom. We smiled as the day began. It was going to be a great day.
We grabbed a casual brunch with a friend before making our way to Washington Park. We go to the park all the time, so I thought this was just another standard park Saturday. In addition to wearing my go-to Patagonia jacket, I decided to wear my very loud Colorado hat. Additionally, I had packed a football and frisbee in the car but decided I would grab them after we finished our first lap around the park.
Ironically, as the walk began, I prompted an entire conversation about wedding planning. Washington Park is one of our top choices for a wedding venue and so it seemed fitting and appropriate to start dreaming as we took a stroll around. Oblivious to Chelsea’s nervousness, I suggested we stop at a bench near the North end of the park to take a closer look at the boathouse. Quickly, and probably with some surprise, she obliged. We sat, and I drank a free sparkling water that we picked up along the way.
After a few minutes, Chelsea cleared her throat.
“So, I thought I could show you some of the prints I told you about earlier this week.”
I was confused: why would we be looking at her prints at the park?
I asked, “are they on your phone?”
“No, I brought them with me.”
Opening up her backpack (which now, seemed completely out of place given the fact we were just taking a walk) she pulled out a black book with four prints inside. I opened the book and began taking the prints out, one by one. I tried to let each one sink in slowly. By the third one, I was pretty sure that something special was happening. I could feel it. And, the third print included a short lyric from one of “our songs” that we want to use at our wedding.
Chelsea prompted me on the last one, saying that, “there’s one more,” while turning it around (it was facing backwards near the end of the book). As she flipped it over, I read the simple, but powerful, emotion-laden words, “Heather, my beloved, will you marry me?”
Indeed, it was happening.
Of all the things, I had to ask: “Do you have a ring?”
Obviously, she did. She even had it in the most perfect tree ring box. Every small detail was planned.
My stomach turned to mush, and my heart felt like it was beating out of my chest. Tears brimmed swiftly, and I said an emphatic, “YES!”
She smiled and remarked, “I’m not quite done yet…”
I breathed heavily in and out. I wanted to hold onto this moment. Everything was happening so fast. We locked eyes and I felt time freeze as she read a letter she had written for the special day. She read each word with such sincerity. She told me she loved me. She shared the kind of joy she felt in doing life together.
Getting on one knee, she opened the ring box and asked again – “Heather, will you marry me?”
This time, I said a louder “yes” while also kicking my legs back and forth and hugging her tightly. This was really happening. She put the ring on my finger and I gasped. It was stunning. The shock commenced: how had she pulled this off? When did she talk with my parents? Where did she hide the ring? How long had she been planning? Who knew what was happening?
With glee and joy, we called, texted, and messaged family and friends to share the news that we were engaged – again. Double time.
Double engagement is much more than two proposals. To me, the value of two individuals – already whole – coming together and proposing is that we both are opting in. We are both committing. We are both saying “yes.” This is not so different from the real-life reality of relationship: on the tough days, we each have to show up for each other in different ways. We make the choice to be together and we feel that a double engagement symbolizes this important aspect of relationship.
The rest of the day was a dream. Immediately after the park we went to get our favorite kind of ice cream at Sweet Cow. The ice cream shop has been iconic in our relationship; we went there at least 15 times in the first few months of dating in 2016. For the evening, Chelsea had booked a romantic dinner at Dazzle, a Denver jazz club downtown. Sharing champagne, we finally took everything in and celebrated. It was lovely, and I was simply, so happy.
So, now doubly engaged, we are beginning the formidable task of wedding planning. It’s a new step in our relationship, and we’re doing our best to adjust and figure it out.
What I know for sure is that Chelsea will be my human forever. She will be the one I marry.
Life will throw us challenges, difficulties, and hardships – I know this because it already has. And while our life won’t be perfect, I am sincerely grateful that our faith, our love, our hope, and our commitment will be what can stand anything. I am relieved to believe in this kind of love. Chelsea has changed my mind about what is possible with love.
Before, I thought love was an ideal to strive for and a way in which to live a life.
Now, I know that love is power – it can transcend anything, withstand anything, and hold up anything. Love is more than just something to hope for, it is something to be felt, to be shared, to be cultivated. I do this better with Chelsea in my life and if that isn’t a reason to marry someone, I don’t know what is.
Cheers to love and forever and for tree ring boxes.
As an ENFP – which if you happen to be a nerd for Myers-Briggs Personalities – curiosity, enthusiasm, exploration, and relationships largely shape the way I act in the world. ENFP types echo life as a “dreamer”; much like sentiments found in this beautiful piece of poetry:
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for – and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing. It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool – for love – for your dreams – for the adventure of being alive.
I want to “love the hell out of everybody.” I desperately want to feel “liberated and free.” And, like John Lewis talks about, I want to see “the spark of the divine” in everyone. My curiosity will open these paths; but it will be my commitment to the life in front of me that will build the kind of relationships that necessitate community.
This requires a hell of a lot of practice.
It means that my “yes” must mean “yes” and my “no” must mean “no.” It means that if sleep is important to me, I should aim for 7, maybe 8 hours (not 4 or 5). It means that I know my limits. Commitment, means living right where you are. I have dreams. Dream them. I have a beautiful past. Remember them. But, what God is teaching me now, more than ever, is that part of welcoming new seasons is the striving to commit to what they have to teach you, presently.
And so, to also instill a new kind of drive to commit, I recently joined a rugby team.
I have a blank, white slate to learn something new.
Unlike a new endeavor that I’m doing just for the heck of it, I am on the rugby team because it’s something I can tangibly work towards. It brings opportunity for goals – and the striving for achieving them.
I have practices each and every week – all of which that will test my physical, mental, and emotional endurance. I have team-members that I can learn from. I have regularity – a schedule that I know I can depend on.
I rest somewhere between the zest of being a student of something new, and the longevity of seeing hard work come to fruition.
I read in an old journal recently (from when I was around 8 years of age) about my dreams to join the NFL. Rugby is no NFL, but it is bad-ass. It is hard. The women that I am playing with are immensely impressive and I have a lot to learn.
So, I feel beautifully content that I’m still following old, planted dreams, with a newfound balance of curiosity and commitment to the endeavors I take on. I don’t have to grasp at all the tassels of life that present themselves.
Instead, I can know myself intimately, celebrate who I am, and commit to living the life I have wanted to live.
I am committed to being me. And really, there is no greater feeling.
Post-first-ever rugby scrimmage at Infinity Park in Glendale.